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Pic de Gallo - Concept cooking  RSS feed

 
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I always have a problem with sharing food ideas, as I do not use recipes. I'm a concept cooker, and that's hard to explain. A quick example is if the recipe calls for vinegar, it needs an acid to make it work, therefore, lemon juice, buttermilk, tomato juice, kombucha, or sour wine all will work there, to one extent or another. How much do you use of anything? "Enough." Really hard to share recipes that way.

I was in Mexico years ago, the place we ate breakfast had awesome pico de gallo, best I have ever had. I don't eat it as a condiment, I eat it as a salad, and kept ordering bigger and bigger bowls of it. One day the waiter said "The abuela in the kitchen ("grandma", respectful title for older women) wants to meet los gringa who is eating all her pico de gallo!" So I went to the kitchen. Her English was as scanty as my Spanish, but we both cook, and we waved our hands a lot, and a busboy helped with a few things. She taught me how to make the pico de gallo that was so good. And it's not the recipe, it's how it's done. So start with a random recipe you like to get amounts of ingredients.

Chop up your onions, dump them into a bowl, sprinkle about 3/4 of the salt for the whole recipe on them, and all the lime or lemon juice. If you are using fresh garlic or any fresh hot chile, chop it, and mix it in. Let it sit while you chop the rest, or do something else for a bit. If you are making it ahead of time, toss the bowl in the fridge, or let ferment on the counter for a day or two, the longer it sits the mellower it gets, if you have hot chile and people who are wimpy, let it sit longer to calm it. What this does is the salt and the acid of the juice slightly pickles and mellows the sharp ingredients. Chop your tomatoes, layer them on top of the onion mix with all their juice poured in, sprinkle on the rest of the salt. Again the acid of their juice is adding to the pickling effect. Again, you can stop here for a while if you want to. I often take it to a party like that, with everything else I'm going to add separate, and mix it at the last minute. At the last minute, add your cilantro and any other ingredients, stir it all well, and serve. Expect it to go fast :D

What else do I put in it? Oooh, anything that's holding still to be chopped!! :) The basic idea here is a lightly pickled or fermented base with the non-pickled things mixed in later. Cucumbers, squash, carrots, any fresh veggie or herb, cooked meats, boiled eggs, and cooked potato are all things that I know work well in it. Any acid you like can do the pickling, the salt helps but could be omitted. I suppose a sweetener could be used, but that's heresy in my book, so I have never done it :)

A neat version I took to a party: Onions, a bit of ginger, lemon juice, tomatoes, tons of basil, purple bell peppers, salt. Put it on multigrain crackers the size of my hand, added cheese, broiled it till the cheese was done, served hot. That went over REALLY well.

A version I make a lot in the summer: Onions, tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, red chile, rice or red wine vinegar, cilantro, any other green herbs I can find, salt. Let sit on the counter to ferment a few days. I keep it around to dump on top of whatever green salad type stuff I have, instant yummy food! Is it pico de gallo? Is it kim chee? It's just ... concept cooking at my house, it's always different, it's always good.
 
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In Missouri you might be able to grow Hardy Prickly Pear.  I'm really getting into cooking with Nopales (Prickly Pear pads) lately, and they would definitely go in Pico de Gallo.

https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/eastern-prickly-pear

The "spineless" variety is easier to handle, but the trick with any of them is to harvest the very young pads, before they develop the hard spines, and blanch them before preparation.  Blanching removes the tiny hair spines (glochids), making them safe to handle and eat.

Be sure to harvest with tongs.  I just picked some this evening by hand and got slightly spined....

 
Pearl Sutton
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Tyler: I moved here from New Mexico :) Yes, nopales are excellent in it. We usually singed off the thorns. (That word looks weird or wrong. Burned them off with fire, singe)
Forgot on my list of things I have put in my pico: apples, pears, berries, mangoes, fish, nuts, coconut, and sweet vinegar (like balsamic or pear) go well with those. Red onions look pretty with the fruity ones. Still the same thing: pickle any of it that needs it, toss the rest in last, 2 part salad, basically.
 
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